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Ethnic Indians in Malaysia shave off heads in protest
Jaishree Balasubramanian in Kuala Lumpur | December 20, 2007 15:49 IST
A group of ethnic Indians shaved off their heads today as over 100 protesters gathered near the Malaysian capital demanding the release of five of their leaders detained under a controversial security law for raising their voice against alleged marginalisation of the community.
The protesters gathered at the Batu Caves Hindu temple compound and offered prayers for the early release of the Hindu Rights Action Front (Hindraf) leaders held at a detention camp in Kamunting, about 200 km from Kuala Lumpur, under the Internal Security Act, which allows authorities to hold people without trial for a minimum period of two years.
At least 16 Indians shaved their heads on the banks of a nearby river and walked to the temple, carrying posters of Mahatma Gandhi [Images].
The act of shaving their head was a protest against the ISA detention and also as a prayer for their early release, activists gathered there said.
The fresh protests came an ethnic Indian minister, who had vociferously condemned the protests called by Hindraf, admitted that the recent street demonstrations had prompted the community to raise the unresolved issues faced by it and had affected the loyalty of Indians towards the government to a certain degree.
Malaysia Indian Congress president Samy Vellu said there were Indians who began questioning why the issues raised by the community had not been resolved by the government.
"There were those who questioned why their applications had not been entertained. So, I have asked the Prime Minister to give a bit more to the Indians (in development programmes) considering their history (in the country). The prime minister has agreed to consider this," Vellu said.
The Minister, who had earlier accused the Hindraf of misleading the community and luring protesters through money, said the unity of the multiracial society was a bit shaky.
"I suggest that we develop subjects on unity in schools and we teach our children on the repercussions of disunity, to remind them of history and about how the people could live together as Malaysians," he said.
The Hindraf leaders were put behind bars for calling a rally that had been banned by the government, on November 25 to protest against the alleged marginalisation of Indians, a charge denied by government.
The rally rattled the Malaysian government and a police crackdown on protesters sparked international concern.